These days when everyone, from Modi and Trump, Hollywood and Bollywood actors, authors and journalists and hundreds of millions more, is on Twitter I’m often asked why I’m not. With nearly 350 million people furiously tweeting each day I’m told it’s eccentric to stay aloof or apart. So often have I been asked and so frequently has it been assumed my refusal is illogical or, at least, inexplicable that I’ve decided to explain.
To begin, I don’t believe my views can be reduced to 140 characters – which is still the limit – without misleading simplification or, even, damaging distortion. On most issues that matter you need more space to explain. Perhaps this is why so many who tweet end up as twits!
The second problem is a consequence of what often happens after you’ve tweeted. The twitter universe feels the need to either challenge what you’ve said or use it to justify situations you simply never had in mind. Before you know it you’re drawn into a febrile exchange of rebuttal and reconfirmation that often results in a dogfight.
Now, what may have begun as the expression of a personal opinion ends up with your championing a position and becoming the target of all those who disagree with it and, sometimes, wish to demonise it. At this point your messages start to become combative. And because you’re defending yourself your language becomes sharp, possibly abusive and, occasionally, even indefensible.
These problems are, of course, inherent in the constraints of the twitter format or the behaviour of the twitter universe. My concern with tweeting, however, goes further and deeper.
I don’t feel a need to make my views known to thousands or millions I don’t know, will never meet and don’t wish to impress or, even, be known to. I’m not a politician who needs to attract attention and, indeed, the sort that Trump receives would hardly thrill me. I don’t need votes and I don’t seek popular approbation either.
In fact, truth be told, on many subjects I don’t have opinions that are worth sharing. They’re no better than anyone else’s. On most issues I’m not an expert and my lay opinions, which are often ill-considered and probably likely to change, cannot be of interest, particularly to those who are as ignorant of the matter as I am. So why should I feel a need to broadcast these uninformed, even impetuous, views?
Nor do I wish to greet film stars or ministers or cricket players on their birthdays. They mean nothing to me and I’m a stranger to them. And it doesn’t fulfil me to see my tweet quoted at the bottom of a television screen alongside hundreds more. If some people form their opinion on this basis, more fool them.
Finally, I value my privacy. Twitter doesn’t invade it but certainly ends up squandering or undermining it. The more you tweet the more likely are people to form an opinion of you based on what is, usually, nothing more than a hastily-formed or poorly-expressed tweet. This is not the real you but people will be convinced it is. When that ends up being the case you have only yourself to blame.
So let Modi and Trump tweet as much as they want, when I decide to blow my trumpet not only would I want an orchestra in accompaniment but an audience that sits spellbound before it rises to its feet in applause. Till then, mum’s the word.